Posted tagged ‘watercolors’

Monday Night Art Class: The North Bowl of Revelstoke

March 26, 2012

Having just come back from vacation, I’m still in ski mode, and decided to paint one of my favorite photos from my trip:

Here’s what I ended up with tonight:

The first thing I did was the sky.   A wet wash of cadmium yellow, violet (phtalo purple) and cerulean blue.

Then I did the mountains, starting with the dark shadows of snow.   Again, with violet, cerulean blue, and maybe a touch of ultramarine and/or Paynes grey.

Then I started the rocks, starting with the larger ones as frames of reference, and painting the smaller ones around them.   They’re almost all the same dark shade.   I get my “black” from a mix of Van Dyke brown and Payne’s Grey.   I deliberately mixed up the rocks so they have random dark brown/black shades.

Whenever I got bored with the rocks, I worked on the foreground, adding layers of purple/blue and gradually making it darker.

Then I would add the final dark snow shadows on the mountain, and then lift some of the foreground out to lighten the color and add some texture to it.

I did a lot of lifting and re-painting the foreground.  If you want to do this, it’s important to have a rugged strong sheet of watercolor paper that can take kind of treatment.

I recommend the 300-lb Arches.   It’s “bullet-proof”, you can use it and abuse it, and it doesn’t buckle or degrade.   Not like the cheap watercolor paper I see a lot of beginners use.

Of course, it’s 12 bucks a sheet and when I tell this to people they say  “Oooh, that’s expensive!“.

(Oh, for crying out loud.)    You can cut a sheet into four, and make four paintings like the one I did here.

That’s 3 bucks for an evenings’ worth of entertainment.  I think most people can afford that.

Boggles my mind, why people will invest so much time into a hobby like watercolors, but they’ll scrimp and save a few bucks on sub-par art supplies that will only frustrate them.    But I digress here.

As a final touch to my painting,  I added a hint of cadmium yellow/yellow ochre to the white highlights to warm up the paining.    Using artist licence, I added a skier (a small blob) to the foreground in the middle/right, to give a sense of depth.

The one thing I’m not crazy about is the bottom right hand corner.   In the photo, this section is featureless.   I tried to make it interesting by lifting some of the paint and adding some shadows.  But I’m not sure if I like what I’ve done here.

If you notice, the painting is a lot more “warmer” (i.e. purple/yellow) than the original.    Part of the reason for this, is that I did the painting based on a print-out from a laser printer on plain Xerox paper.   The true winter white/bluish colors weren’t accurately reproduced, and this is all I had to go by.

Next time, I’ll print this out on photo paper instead.

Overall, I give myself a B-Plus on this one.

I’m not displeased, but I know I can do better.

Call this one a “study”.

I want to re-do it in the near future.


Monday’s Art Class: Attridge Tracks

February 27, 2012

Today, I painted another winter scene from Silverstar Ski Resort.

Normally I’m not so repetitive, and after a few “safe” easy paintings, I’ll usually pick something difficult to challenge myself.

But life’s been difficult enough lately.  I don’t need any more challenges.   Instead, I just want to paint what I’m passionate about, and right now, that happens to be skiing in British Columbia.

So bear with me while I post another ski painting.

Here’s the scene I picked.  It’s from the part of the ski hill known as Attridge.

I choose this scene because I like the blue and white contrast, and the horizon tilting towards the middle.  The ski tracks are off-center and seem to go right into the painting, giving a sense of depth.  The trees are scraggly and irregular and also off-center.   Overall I found the composition of this photo pleasing.

And here’s the actual painting:

The color palette was almost the same as last weeks’.   Mostly cerulean blue for the sky and the snow shadows.  The trees were Van Dyke brown, mixed with sap green, cobalt blue and Paynes grey.

I deliberately didn’t paint all the trees in the middle, because it would have looked like mud.

I also left out ski tracks on the bottom, because I wanted to emphasize the ski tracks going into the painting, and not the “busy” foreground.

To break up the dark green true hues, I followed my art teachers’ advice, and added a touch of alizarin crimson to the mix, to give a hint of reddish-brown.

One thing about painting snow, is to not be afraid to mix in a few colors.   Here, you can see I added violet to the blue, as well as cadmium yellow to warm things up.

Another hint, to make things really jump out of the painting, is to make sharp edges on abrupt color changes.

For example, with the snow clumps:

As well as the edge of the tree-line:

Just when I thought I was finished, my teacher noticed the ski tracks stood out too much.  They were overpowering the whole painting.

Soften one of the edges, he suggested.

So I used a wet brush to blur out the right-hand side, so that the blue and white were more blended together.  I left the left hand side of each ski track as it was, with a sharp contrast between the blue and white.

The whole thing took me about 60 seconds to do, and it made all the difference in the world.

It’s amazing what these small changes can do.

And that’s one more trick I’ll be remembering for next time.



Monday’s Art Class: Moonrise over the Monashees.

February 20, 2012

Here’s a photo from a couple of weeks ago,  taken at SilverStar, BC.     I couldnt’ resist the full moon rising over the Monashees in the distance.


Of course, I knew I had to paint this.  It was on my short list, and I finished it tonight.  Here’s the result:


The first thing I did was use a dime to trace a circle for the moon, and cover it with masking compound.   I made sure to put the moon off-center, about one third from the right

I set the horizon about one third from the bottom, leaving two-thirds sky.    When in doubt, always use the one-third/two-third rule.   That makes for good composition that’s pleasing to the eye.   Dunno why, but people like it.

Next, I made a wet-on-wet wash for the sky.  With cadmium yellow/orange on the bottom, cerulean blue in the middle, and violet/cerulean blue on the top.

I painted in the mountains in the background, leaving some white spots, using a mixture of brown, blue and purples.   It really didnt’ matter what the background was…it was  just filler for the trees in the background.   I added just a hint of light pink for the snow-capped mountains.

The icing on the cake was painting the trees.   I used a combination of sap green, Van Dyke brown, Paynes Gray and Cobalt Blue.  I chose the dark pigments to make the trees stand out from the lighter background.

I was holding my breath when I painted the thin branches at the tree tops.   You do one of these wrong, you make the line too thick, you can ruin the whole painting.

Spruce trees are really fun to paint with a rigger brush, which has long and narrow bristles.   They wobbles and bend as you paint, giving the branches a loose, spontaneous look.

The secret is not to overdo things.   Paint what you need to, and get out.     These trees probably only took ~15 minutes.

The final touch was removing the masking compound, leaving a pure white disk of the moon.   That was too harsh against the violet background, so I wetted the paper, and just barely dabbed a touch of yellow onto it.

I did this twice, and it gave the moon just enough of a yellow shade to soften its look.  It looks a bit mottled, which is what I wanted.

One winter barn

January 17, 2011

Whenever I’m outside, I take lots of photos.    I’m always looking for the next subject to paint.

(Although I have such a back-log, it might take me years to getting around to actually painting any given scene)

Here’s one I took (???) Lord knows when.   All I know is that it’s within the last 10 years.

The photo itself is somewhat BLAH.  It’s almost black and white.    But that’s where artisitc licence comes in.  You can add or delete what you want, as you see fit.

So that’s what I did, with this quick study a month ago.   I basically added blues and yellows to enhance the mood of the sunset on the snow.

This was a very loose and free painting.  It was towards the end of my art class and I wanted to whip off something quick.   So I did this in ~ 30 minutes, not caring if I got it right.  I just let the paint fly wherever it went,and I had a blast.

Today, I decided I’d try this again, but this time, a bit larger, and taking a lot more time doing it.

I figured that if I got such nice results with the first attempt, imagine what I’d get the next time, when I really meant it.

Here’s what I came up with:

But I admit I was a bit tense when I painted this.    The results turned out okay, but this second painting was not quite as much fun to paint as the first.

And what’s interesting, is this second painting took almost 90 minutes to do:  almost three times longer than the first.

But it’s not necessarily three times better.

In fact, I tend to prefer the first quick-study.


So this has been an interesting little lesson for me.

Sometimes, it’s not about the time you put into a painting, but the energy you feel while you’re doing it.

Also, sometimes the first impressions are the best, no matter how hard you try.   And they’re often impossible to duplicate.


Okay…enough navel-gazing for now.

‘I’m off to watch some bad TV.


Another Watercolor

March 8, 2010

What is it, you may ask?

Why, it’s anything you want it to be!

Monday Night Painting

December 14, 2009

Some people ask me :  What’s the point of painting something?  Why don’t you just take a photo?

Good question.

Here’s a photo.  (Might have been taken by me or my girlfriend at the time, I don’t remember).  It’s Spirit Island on Maligne Lake, in Jasper National Park.

And here’s the painting:

As you can see, it’s not always about reproducing something 100% accurately.

It’s creating your own version of the world, as you chose to see it and edit it.

All while trying to coax finicky pigments to spread on a damp piece of paper.

With colors that are more subtle than the real thing,  giving the scene an entirely different, softer look.

And THAT….is what half the fun is.

Something that you can’t get from a photo.

Hit-and-Miss Painting

December 1, 2009

Here’s a storm I encountered in Wyoming 6 years ago.

I tried to capture the sky in watercolors.    My first attempt didn’t go so well…I tried to apply multiple layers.  Alternating between wet applications, and the blow-dryer.    But I over-did it and it became mud.


In the next attempt, I lay down the colors one, and only once.

Better than before.  But I still didn’t get the effect I wanted.

The problem with wet-on-wet is it dilutes the pigments, and I find it hard to get the dark shades.

If any watercolorists out there have any suggestions, I’m open to them.
Oh well, the evening wasn’t a total loss.   I finally finished one I’ve been working on for a while.

It’s a scene from Colorado in June.  I forget exactly where.  But there are countless places where you can drive up to 10,000 feet in a Honda Civic and see sights like this.